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Fortunately Mrs. Thornton is exceptional; in the Autobiographies of all the other ladies there is always a place for romance. Anne Murray, afterwards Anne Lady Halkett,' was much perplexed by many entanglements, and tells us all about her various wooers. She describes their conversations, their meetings and their partings with precision and picturesqueness.
'What he said was handsome and short, but much disordered, for he looked as pale as death, and his hands trembled when he took mine to lead me, and with a great sigh he said, 'If I loved you less, I could say more.' I told him I could not but think myself much obleeged to him for his good opinion of me.' The course of their love did not run smooth; relations intervened to separate them, and about two years after they first met she suddenly heard he had married someone else. I was alone in my sister's chamber when I read the letter, and flinging myself down upon her bed I said, 'Is this the man for whom I have suffered so much? Since he has made himself unworthy my love, he is unworthy of my anger or concern,' and rising immediately I went out into the next room to my supper, as unconcernedly as if I had never had any interest in him, nor had ever lost it.'
Mrs. Hutchinson, in her life of Col. Hutchinson, relates with similar frankness, but less fulness, how the acquaintance between herself and her husband began. He saw some of her books, and heard how reserved and studious she was, and at last heard a song that she had written which seemed to him to contain 'something of rationality beyond the customary reach of a she wit.' When he enquired he heard much of her perfections, but was told she shuns the company of men as the plague.' This attracted him more than all else, and he was filled with thoughts how he should attain the sight and knowledge of her. At last they met his heart, being prepossessed with his own fancy, was not free to discern how little there was in her to answer so great an expectation. She was not ugly in a careless riding habit, she had a melancholy negligence both of herself and others, as if she neither affected to please others, nor took notice of anything before her; yet in spite of all her indifferency she was surprised with some unusual liking in her soul when she saw this gentleman.' Mrs. Hutchinson does not report conversations with her admirer as Anne Murray does, nor describe the various incidents of the wooing. I shall pass by all the little amorous relations, which if I would take the pains to relate would make a 1 Edited by J. G. Nichols, Camden Society, 1875.
true history of a more handsome management of love than the best romances describe; but these are to be forgotten as the vanities of youth, not worthy of mention among the greater transactions of his life.'
This distinction between 'vanities' and 'great transactions' helps to explain why the men who wrote their own lives. say so little of the domestic or sentimental side of them. Ludlow, for instance, in the three volumes he wrote on his career hardly ever mentions his wife. She crops up suddenly in an account of the sale of the Church lands by the Commonwealth 'wherein I employed that portion I had received with my wife.' Clarendon is only a little more communicative about his marriages. Mr. Hyde returned again to his studies at the Middle Temple, having it still in his resolution to dedicate himself to the profession of the law, without declining the politer learning, to which his humour and his conversation kept him always very indulgent; and to lay some obligation upon himself to be fixed to that course of life (i.e. the law) he inclined to a proposition of marriage, which having no other passion in it than an appetite to a convenient estate, succeeded not.'
About a couple of years later, with the same object of forcing himself to stick to the law to call home all straggling and wandering appetites which naturally produce irresolution and inconstancy in the mind, he married a young lady very fair and beautiful.'
The lady died within a year, and three years later the widower married again, partly to please his father and partly because, though he had already begun to practise at the Bar, he was not so confident of himself that he should not start aside,' and
thought it necessary to lay some obligation upon himself.' The remedy was effective: from the time of his marriage he laid aside all other thoughts but of his profession.'
These instances will serve to illustrate the difference between the point of view of the men and women of the seventeenth century when they wrote their Diaries and Autobiographies. Englishwomen of that time had a narrower range of interests, and alike by custom and by law their freedom of action was more restricted than it is now. But if they have little to tell us about matters of state we should know very little about matters of the house and domestic life in general without their evidence. They supply the historian. with a fresh set of facts; social facts which are as essential to him as political facts. They give him also a new side of life, and new
aspects of characters-both essential to any one who wishes to understand the life of a period and to 'see it whole.'
All autobiographers have a certain amount of vanity. If they did not think they were in some way remarkable persons they would scarcely take the trouble to record what one of them has styled my trivial life and misfortunes.' Mrs. Hutchinson tells us that before she was born her mother dreamt she was walking in the garden with her father, and that a star came down into her hand. My father told her her dream signified she should have a daughter of some extraordinary eminence.' The Duchess of Newcastle frankly admits her own vanity, nearly as often as she displays it. 'But I hope,' she concludes, my readers will not think me vain for writing my own life, since there have been many that have done the like, as Cæsar, Ovid and many more, both men and women, and I know no reason I may not do it as well as they : but I verily believe some censuring readers will scornfully say, why hath this lady writ her own life? since none cares to know whose daughter she was, or whose wife she is, or how she was bred, or what fortunes she had, or how she loved, or what humour or disposition she was of. I answer that it is true, 'tis to no purpose to the readers, but it is to the authoress, because I write it for my own sake not theirs.'
The excuse is good. Those autobiographies are most valuable for historical purposes in which the authors describe themselves, not those in which they relate public affairs. Types of character are indispensable to the historian as facts: it is not enough for him to know when such and such a thing took place; he must also understand what manner of men they were who did the things recorded. Appreciation of the characters of the men of a particular period helps to appreciate their motives and to explain their actions. Therefore the value of an autobiography does not depend upon the extent to which its author was concerned in great affairs. The more it deals with such affairs the more treacherous it is as historical evidence. For the natural vanity which leads the author to record his own life leads him to overestimate his influence on affairs, and a foible which is harmless when he is dealing with domestic matters becomes dangerous when it tends to confuse the causes of public events or to misrepresent the motives of statesmen.
It is this foible which Swift attacks in Burnet's History of My Own Time. His vanity,' says Swift, 'runs intolerably through the whole book, affecting to have been of consequence at 19 years
old, and while he was a little Scotch parson of 40 pounds a year.' In order to ridicule Burnet and similar writers Swift wrote the Memoirs of P. P. Clerk of this Parish. The satirical advertisement prefixed explains its purpose. The original of the following extraordinary treatise consisted of 2 large volumes in folio, which might justly be entitled 'The importance of a man to himself'; but as it can be of very little use to anybody besides, I have contented myself to give only this short abstract of it, as a taste of the true spirit of modern memoir writers' (Works, viii. 168).
C. H. FIRTH.
Four Representative Documents of Scottish
HERE are two ways in which we can measure the course a nation has run from its emergence into history. We may trace its course in the material imprints it has left behind it in the land where it has had its habitation. When we think of the monastic huts of St. Columba, composed of wattles and clay, and of the magnificent ecclesiastical edifices which arose in the reign of David I., we have brought home to us with the vividness of picture the length the nation had come during the intervening centuries. In the contrast between a modern Clyde steamer and the skiff made of wickerwork which brought St. Columba from Ireland to Iona, we have a commentary on the development of a nation's life which appeals to every mind. So, if we look at the framework of society in the successive periods of the national history; if we compare, for example, the social order as it existed in the reign of David I. with the social order of to-day, we take in with all fulness what progress means.
The development of a nation, as indicated by these palpable reminders, lies patent before us on the page of history. But there is another way of regarding the national development which is not so visibly evident, which is apt to be overlooked, and which, nevertheless, is of greater moment, as revealing the deepest springs of national life. What were the conceptions of man's relations to his fellows, to life itself, to the general scheme of things, which dominated the mind of the nation at the different periods of its history? It is only with these conceptions in our minds that we can adequately interpret the outward and visible signs of a nation's life at any given period. Behind the social order, behind the forms of government, which meet our eye, these conceptions are the impelling and directing forces that brought them to birth. They inspire and regulate the policies of
1 Opening Lecture to the Class of Ancient (Scottish) History in the University of Edinburgh, 9th October, 1912.